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Thursday, 30 August 2012

‘After Clare’ by Marjorie Eccles

Published by Severn House,
July 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8197-7

After nearly five decades Emily Fitzallan, nee Vavasour has returned to her childhood home Leysmorton Manor.  During her time abroad Leysmorton Manor had been used as a convalescence home during the war years and was now, in 1922, back in the hands of the family, whilst although the house belonged to Emily, it was her cousin Dirk who lived there.  But not everything had changed, for still the neighbouring house Steadings is inhabited by the Markhams, and it had brought back many memories seeing again her old friend Hugh Markham.  But the most poignant of memories is that of her elder sister Clare, who had gone for a walk one day and never returned.

The discovery of a soldier’s skeleton at the base of the old Yew tree propels the past into the present with shocking revelations. Could the death be connected to Clare’s disappearance.

As with previous novels by Marjorie Eccles much of the power of the book lies in the interaction between the characters. Although the book is set in 1922, the England to which Emily returns is much changed from the England she had left decades before. The war has wrought many social changes.  The younger members of Emily’s extended family Valentine and Poppy, contrast sharply with the older generation.  Emily is conscious that she has decisions to make.  Could she live in England again? And if she should decide to do so, how will it be to live with Dirk and his sister, as it is unthinkable to ask them to leave.  But as Emily ponders her dilemma, the investigation into the identity of the dead soldier begins to break down the fabric of life at Leysmorton Manor to reveal a second mystery.

Cleverly plotted, the solution to this complex family mystery is skilfully revealed after some surprising twists.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Marjorie Eccles wrote fourteen books in the Gil Mayo police procedural series before tuning to historical suspense.  Books are: The Shape of Sand, Shadows and Lies, Last Nocturne and Broken Music.

Marjorie Eccles was born in Yorkshire and has spent some time on the Northumbrian coast. Marjorie has written mainly crime novels but also several romantic fiction, which have been published both in the UK and in the US. Many of her books have been translated and serialised around the world. She has one grown up son and now lives in Hertfordshire

Monday, 27 August 2012

‘Mortal Fire’ by C F Dunn

 Published by Monarch Books, 2012. 
ISBN: 978-0-85721-202-3

Emma D'Eresby, a 29 year-old Professor of History at Cambridge college grasps the opportunity of a post in an exclusive university in Maine, USA.  Here she hopes to learn more about a curious 17th-century journal in the College library.  On the evening of her formal reception she meets the many distinguished academic and research staff at Howards Lake College, among which are the sinister Professor Kort Staahl and the enigmatic 33-year-old surgeon, Matthew Lynes, who she later learns is a widower.  And from that early introduction a sense of tension and menace is tangible.  

As Emma eases herself into life in the college - her students and the companionship of Elena Smalova and her boyfriend Matias, she continues to seek to indulge her interest in the 17th century journal about which her grandfather often talked,  and which had sparked her curiosity.  She runs into Matthew Lynes on several occasions enjoying a lively exchange of views, which doesn’t please Sam Wiesner who is attracted to her.

Emma is clearly attracted to Matthew, however this is not a straight forward romantic thriller, as Emma discovers as she draws closer to Matthew.  A physical attack on Emma brings things to a head, as well as bringing her family from England to Maine. 

Whilst Mortal Fire, resolves some questions, in the main it whets ones appetite for the second book in the series of the Secret of the Journal.

Like all good mystery thrillers it has a stunning twist at the end that has one eager for the next book in the series.
Lizzie Hayes

C F Dunn says that although she was always on the move with her Air Force family, she spent a peripatetic but happy childhood in her book-lined imagination fuelled by tales from the past.  University gave her the opportunity to indulge her love of history and it was where she met her future husband.
 Now she divides her time between running a specialist dyslexia and autism school in the South-East, and writing in the South-West, best described as living between the here and now and the never-never.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

‘Five Days to Die’ By Katia Lief

Published by Ebury Press,
February 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-091939-22-9

The events in the book take place, as the title implies, over a five-day period.  As it opens, on September 3, 2001 [and that specific date is significant], Emily Parker, a young wife and mother, has left her children - - a one-year- old girl and two boys, ages seven and eleven - - with her mother to run a small shopping errand.  She never returns from that chore, and there is no clue as to what has happened to her.  Vacationing in Cape Cod, the family had been scheduled to return to New York City the following day.  Her husband and mother are stunned by her disappearance, and the police are immediately called in.  The following day, her car is found in the parking lot of the market, the rotting groceries inside the vehicle.

The case is assigned to Detective Al Snow and a relative rookie, Amy Cardoza.  In addition, joining the investigation is John Geary, former special agent and head [and one of the founders] of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, now retired after 30 years with that agency. When Emily’s disappearance is first reported, Geary was at the station working, in a basement office, on a book about cold cases he had worked, with the assistance of a man he had consulted with over the years, a renowned criminologist.  Together they launch a manhunt, determined to find the woman and her abductor before things escalate.

As to the aforementioned significance of that date:  Dr. Geary, among his cold cases, is immediately caught by one with unavoidable similarities, wherein over the span of several years six women have each been abducted on the 3rd of September, each one exactly seven years after the preceding one.  Moreover, each was the mother of a boy between six and eight years of age, and each of those boys was abducted on precisely the fifth day following his mother’s disappearance, each ultimately found after having been gruesomely tortured and killed.  The pattern was inescapable.  They the crimes have been disparate geographically, they are convinced this is a work of a serial killer, and their time is fast running out.

Geary is a fascinating creation:  beyond middle age, his appearance is described as a “state of overwrought, rumpled antagonism.”  So too is Amy, a half-Portuguese woman overcoming the prejudices that come with that as well as her rookie status, but with great intelligence and instincts.  The two work together and gain mutual respect in the process.  The novel is filled with nail-chewing, breath-holding suspense, and is recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit
 Earlier books are You are Next, Next Time You See Me, Vanishing Girls
Katia Lief was born in France to American parents, a musician and a teacher; who grew up along the East Coast with an older sister and younger brother; fled a boarding school by enrolling at Simon's Rock Early College at the age of fifteen; graduated from Sarah Lawrence College at the age of nineteen...and then ran off to Paris for lack of a better idea. Half a year later she returned to New York, got a job in publishing, followed by many other jobs in all kinds of businesses, earned a master's degree in literature and creative writing, and published two novels. She has since published books under two other names, Kate Pepper and Katia Speigelman,

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

‘Sleep Walkers’ by Tom Grieves

Published by Quercus,
August 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-85738-981-7

Strange nightmares of beatings, drownings, murder, sadistic violence, haunt ordinary blokey Ben, and nervous fifteen-year-old Toby.  Both are unremarkable people, strangers to each other, yet nightly they dream of similar horrors for which their nearest and dearest always have soothing explanations when they each wake from their troubled sleep.  In the reality of their everyday lives, both of them find themselves nursing welts, bruises, bleeding scars, painful limbs; neither of them is sure how these came about, although they have vague memories of either inflicting injury, or having injury inflicted on them.

Why are they dreaming like this?  Who can they trust? As their everyday lives begin to splinter, the curtain between their dreams and reality begin to fray.  Ben is aware that he is committing hideous atrocities upon helpless victims, although that is not the kind of person he is.  Night after night, Toby is being violently abused, his body left broken and bruised.  Until one of his teachers begins to question what is happening to him.  She, Toby and Ben join together in a search for the truth, and uncover an extraordinary conspiracy, a secret society which was never meant to be revealed, whose aims are deeply sinister.

The twists are unpredictable and the plot a complete surprise.  I couldn't put it down.
Susan Moody

Tom Grieves has worked in television as a script editor, producer and executive producer, as well as a writer. He has written for various series and has had two of his own series ideas commissioned and produced. Sleepwalkers is his first novel. He lives in Somerset.

Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

‘Start Shooting’ by Charlie Newton

Published by Doubleday,
January, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-385-53469-7

The one-page prologue of sorts, headed “Chicago,” opens with the words “The girl was thirteen and Irish, and fashioned out of sunlight so bright she made you believe in angels,” and ends with these:
“Nineteen years I’ve been a ghetto cop and thought I’d worked every heartbreaking, horror combination possible.  But I hadn’t.  I wasn’t marginally prepared for how bad six days could get.  And neither was anyone else.”  And then the author details those six days, the p.o.v. alternating between that of Arleen Brennan and Bobby Vargas, the cop. The writer’s style is such that there was a smile on my face at page 1 [following the single page containing that prologue], which describes the Four Corners neighbourhood in the South Side of Chicago, and its multi-cultural inhabitants.

The tale begins in the winter of 1982, filling in a lot of the history of Chicago over the last 50+ years, even for those who think they remember all the stories of corruption and race riots.  Chicago is hopeful of hosting the 2016 Olympics and the “salvation” it would surely mean for the city, with the ensuing influx of revenue for a cash-strapped town.  All very entertaining, with just an undercurrent of danger - - until the shooting starts, that is.  At that point, things take a different turn, becoming dark and edgy, with a fair amount of violence.  The craziness gets a bit hard to follow at times, but that didn’t slow the turning of pages at all.

At its heart this is a novel about two pairs of siblings, Arleen and Coleen Brennan, beautiful blond twin sisters, the latter not surviving past the age of 13, when she was raped to death, Arleen escaping the city and not seen again for 29 years, when she appears in the book’s opening pages.  Bobby and Reuben Vargas are brothers, Bobby 42 as the story starts, Reuben, a cop and “a street legend in Chicago,” the older brother who was Bobby’s hero for half his life, their parents born in Mexico but the boys having grown up in Four Corners. Ambition
is just one thing Arleen and Bobby have in common, for a future, and ame, as an actress and a guitar-playing musician, respectively.  But Arleen is waiting tables, and Bobby is a cop who plays “in the band, weekends around town;” one other thing they have in common is a deep love for their siblings.

Start Shooting is one of the most original novels I’ve read in a while, and though I can’t say I held my breath as it headed towards it denouement, I was white-knuckled from gripping the book so tightly in my hands.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit
Also by Charlie Newton 
Calumet City featuring Patti Black, the most decorated cop in Chicago.

Charlie Newton was born in Chicago and reads like that of one of his characters. He has built successful bars/restaurants and resort apartments, raced thoroughbreds that weren't quite so successful, and brokered television and film in the Middle East to gentlemen who often weren't. Generally speaking, he's lived a life in the borderlands (literal and figurative) where stories like Start Shooting and Calumet City happen. And survived to enjoy it.

Gloria and Ted Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

‘The Burning Wire’ by Jeffery Deaver

Narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris
Published by Whole Story Audio Books (Full & Unabridged)
ISBN: 978-1-47120-305-3

11.20 am New York’s Manhattan's electricity grid begins to record critical failures in several sections and gradually section after section goes down.  A blast from a sub station kills one person and injures several others in an electrical explosion that jumps from the sub-station to a bus stopped nearby, and the city is in panic.

While the FBI try to determine just who is behind this horrific attack, world-class forensic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic, assembles his team, NYPD detective Amelia Sachs and officer Ron Pulaski, who discover anomalies in the sub station and seek by forensics to uncover the method used to create the circumstances that caused a blast of electricity in the sub station.

This is the first book I have read in this series and I am aware that there are nine earlier books in the series.  That this is a dedicated team is evident by the worry shown to Lincoln Rhyme - his blood pressure and his general health, are part of the book. And as the investigation progresses his physical limitations threaten to drive away his closest allies just when he needs them most.

There is an enormous mount of information about electricity which maybe people will find fascinating but I admit I didn’t.  I read for the mystery, not to learn that my hair dryer puts out 10 amps - about back feed – low voltage - juice to hurt you, current in one wire connecting to another wire…… not information that interests me, and there was much of this. However, as the story progresses and more and more of these attacks continue across the city we understand that the author is setting the scene to explain just what is happening, and that is, that the perpetrator is reconnecting a few wires in a house or office so that the bathtub, the sink, the computer keyboard, the simple desk lamp, can kill!.

Then the demand letters start to appear…..

Whilst urgently seeking the person behind these attacks, Rhyme is consulting on another high-profile investigation in Mexico, a hired killer known, Logan, known as the Watchmaker, one of the few criminals to have eluded Rhyme.  Handling two massive investigations takes a toll on Rhyme's health.

Clearly this is a must for all Lincoln Rhyme fans, and it’s a forensics dream as Rhyme describes and explains as they gather evidence.
Lizzie Hayes

Jeffery Deaver was born outside Chicago and has a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Fordham University. The author of twenty-nine novels, two collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, he's received or been shortlisted for a number of awards around the world. He has been awarded the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association and the Nero Wolfe Award, and he is a three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Reader's Award for Best Short Story of the Year and a winner of the British Thumping Good Read Award.
Dennis Boutsikaris was born December 21, 1952) is an award winning character actor. He is a Broadway Actor and frequent television guest star and leading man in made-for-TV movies. He is also an award winning narrator of audio books.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

‘The Dead Season’ by Christobel Kent

 Published by Atlantic Books,
8 May 2012. 
ISBN: 978-18435-4952-9

August in Florence - it’s sweltering, with soaring temperatures, the city shimmers in the unrelenting heat.  Most of the Florentines have decamped to cooler climes - the hills and beaches in the surrounding areas, leaving Florence with most of the cafes and shops closed. But Sandro Cellini ex-policeman now private detective will not be joining them, for Sandro has a new case, a young pregnant woman Anna Niescu whose boyfriend has disappeared.

Also remaining in the city is bankteller Roxana Delfino who works at the small old-fashioned Banca di Toscana Provinciale which has just ten branches, three of them in Florence. With the manager away on holiday, and most of Florence closed Roxana has more time to worry about her mother who is showing signs of dementia, and the disappearance of one of her regular customers,

What appears to be a straight forward missing person case quickly becomes complicated when a body is discovered.  With his ex-partner Pierton assigned to the case Sandro, and his assistant Giulietta Sarto, along with his wife Luisa struggle to unravel the complex tangle that surrounds Anna Niescu.

This is an intriguing mystery, but more than that it is a story of people’s lives, their fears, their hopes, and their yearnings, sometimes the yearnings that we don’t tell even our closest friends, because we are sure that it’s not going to happen for us.  As the story progressed I was as equally involved in all their lives as with attempting to solve the mystery.  Although the characters are all so individual there are parts of each of then with which I could identify, thus is the power of the true story teller.

I also loved this book, because I could smell Florence and not only because of the several references to the refuse bins, but because I could smell the heat.  In England, we do have hot weather – we do – sometimes! But for me whenever one emerges on a summer morning the smell that greets one is the fresh smell that the rain has brought up, because it will have always rained at some point during the night - that’s England.  But the descriptions in this book coupled with the hot weather transported me to the Florence I have visited, and brought back wonderful memories.

When the stifling weather finally breaks, so does the case with shocking revelations.  I cannot recommend this book too highly, I was enthralled throughout and can only say, put this book on your ‘must read’ list.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in this series are: A Time of Mourning and, A Fine and Private Place.

Christobel Kent was born in London in 1962 and now lives in Cambridge with her husband and four children; in between she lived in Florence. She worked in publishing for several years, most recently as Publicity Director at Andre Deutsch. Her debut novel A Party in San Niccolo, was published in 2003.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

‘Deadly Inheritance’ by Janet Laurence

Published by The Mystery Press, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-7001-6

Janet Laurence is an accomplished writer of crime fiction, so her name will be well-known to most crime fiction fans. This, her latest novel, is set it in the past, 1903 to be precise, and features an interesting new female character, American Ursula Grandison.

Ursula has accepted a commission from a wealthy fellow-American, Chauncey Seldon, to discover what is going on in his daughter Helen’s marriage in England where she is wed to an English Earl and has the title of Countess of Mountstanton. To this end, Seldon sends his younger daughter, pretty and lively seventeen-year-old Belle, to visit her sister Helen with Ursula Grandison travelling with the girl as her companion.

Ursula and Helen used to be close friends but the Countess harbours old resentments from their past and is far from pleased when her ex-friend arrives unexpectedly with Belle. Ursula can see a marked changed in Helen and soon realises that all is not well in her marriage; that she is not happy living in the dreary decaying Mountstanton House with her titled husband, the arrogant Earl, and his forbidding mother, the Dowager Countess of Mountstanton.

When Ursula discovers the drowned body of a nursemaid, whom they had earlier believed had left the household, her suspicions about the family increase. Refusing to believe that the death of the housemaid is the accident everyone in the family believes it to be, Ursula sets out to delve deeper into the Mountstanton family and its secrets. When a second death occurs, she is even more determined to discover the  truth as well as to protect young Belle. The denouement of the novel is as convincing as it is shocking.

This is an engaging and enjoyable read, stylishly written, evoking the English way of life for the wealthy and not-so-wealthy of that era. The story flows well, with some good twists in the plot and with characters which are diverse and well-drawn.
For lovers of good crime-fiction, this novel is a must. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Edna Jones

Janet Laurence wanted to be a novelist from the age of seven. First, though, she became a cookery writer for The Daily Telegraph. A member of the Guild of Food Writers, she has published seven cookery books. Soon, though, she started writing crime novels. Ten Darina Lisle culinary crime novels followed, and three historical ones featuring Canaletto, the Italian painter during his time in England. She has also published three general women’s fiction under the pen name of Julia Lisle. Other publications include Writing Crime Fiction – Making Crime Pay. She has run many crime writing workshops, including in Australia where she has been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Tasmania, and at Bristol’s annual CrimeFest. Deadly Inheritance is the first in a new series of historical crime novels set in the early nineteen hundreds featuring Ursula Grandison. She is now working on the next in the series. Janet lives in Somerset.

Edna Jones has been writing novels, articles, book reviews and short stories for some years. Using the pseudonym Clare Dawson for crime novels and short stories, a few other pseudonyms had been used for romantic fiction etc. Born in the West Midlands she has had a variety of jobs, is now retired and lives in Cambridgeshire. Has had two crime novels published (one as an e-book) and several short stories in various anthologies and magazines here and abroad. Single. As well as reading, enjoys outdoor life, travel, and crosswords.  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

‘Death Lies Beneath’ by Pauline Rowson

Published by Severn House,
July 2012. 
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8202-8

Having no luck in finding the killer of ex-con Daryl Woodley, both Detective Superintendent Uckfield and Detective Inspector Andy Horton attend Woodley’s funeral in the hope of picking up a lead to further the investigation.  But their attendance at the funeral leads them in an unexpected  direction.

Then a body found on an old boat in Tipner Boatyard further complicates an already perplexing mystery.  To add to Andy’s confusion Chief Superintendent Sawyer thinks the case is connected to a European criminal gang and assigns Agent Eames from Europol to assist him.  Agent Eames is cool, blonde and gorgeous.

There are many twists as the investigation progresses. It seems that everyone that they put in the frame for the murders they find is already serving time.  Probing deeper into the lives of those connected with the victims the team uncover secrets in the past that lead them to another unsolved murder.

As the story progressed it was clear that there is an unsolved mystery in Andy Horton’s past and one that until recently he has not attempted to solve but one he has now started to wonder about, and contact with a dying man has set him to do some private investigating.  But maybe danger lurks in seeking out the truth of his past. 

This is a fast paced excellent mystery, with an interesting diverse set of characters, and an intriguing hook at the end that has me eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this series.Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Pauline Rowson  was born and raised in Portsmouth. Pauline draws her inspiration for her crime novels from the area in which she lives, which is diverse and never without incident. Before becoming a full time writer Pauline was a renowned marketing and training guru, with a collection of 'how to' business books and a successful marketing, media and training company behind her which she ran for over fifteen years working with a number of clients in the professional, charity and business to business sectors. When she isn't writing (which isn't often) she can be found walking the coastal paths on the Isle of Wight and around Langstone and Chichester Harbours.  She is the founder of CSI Portsmouth an annual event part of Portsmouth Bookfest and a committee member of the Crime Writers' Association.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

‘Talking to the Dead’ by Harry Bingham

 Published by Orion,
26 June 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-4086-3

The title of this crime novel does not involve mediums or psychic phenomena of any kind. What it does do is offer the reader is a fast-moving and exciting story set in and around Cardiff and Swansea and the Pembrokeshire coast.

DC Fiona Griffiths is a keen and hard-working young detective dealing with her first murder case. Problems from her own past seem to come to the fore as her investigations continue into the brutal murder of a young mother and her six-year-old daughter. She feels that the dead woman and her daughter are somehow showing her the way as she delves deeper into a murky story of rich men paying for Eastern European girls to be brought into the country for prostitution. These unsuspecting females suffer rape, cruelty and abuse in a remote ‘prison’ where their foreign abductors callously murder them when they have outlived their usefulness.

It is a grim tale but there are moments of humour and the characters are well-drawn and credible. The pace of the book is good and the ending is exciting and satisfying. The story is written in the first person and in ‘instant’ time (I believe this is how this prose is described) e.g. ‘I sit down. She walks to the door.’ It may not to be to everyone’s taste but once you get used to it, the book is an absorbing read.
Reviewer: Edna Jones
Harry Bingham   is married, lives in Oxfordshire and has a variable number of dogs.  Talking to the dead is the first book in his series featuring a young Welsh detective, Fiona Griffiths. Harry is also the author of two books on writing and getting published. Both books are published by Bloomsbury as companion volumes to the internationally famous Writers' & Artists' Yearbook.  Harry founded The Writers' Workshop in 2006. It rapidly grew to become the country's largest editorial consultancy and (since 2010) also runs the biggest and best festival of writing.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Shamini Flint, creator of the wonderful Inspector Singh.
Shamini Flint began her career in law in Malaysia and also worked at an international law firm in Singapore. She travelled extensively around Asia for her work, before resigning to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist. 
Shamini has sold over 500,000 books since she began writing six years ago.
Her crime fiction series featuring Inspector Singh, have been published by Little Brown and distributed across the world.
Shamini also writes children’s books with cultural and environmental themes including Jungle Book and Turtle takes a Trip and the ‘Sasha’ series which are mainly focused on Asia. Shamini lives in Singapore with her husband and two children

Q         Shamini you have given us five books featuring Inspector Singh, who I have to admit, I totally love.  So where does he come from? Your imagination, or is Inspector Singh based on someone you know?
A         Inspector Singh is a composite character (a lawyer could never admit to anything else.) but he consists largely of my relatives (the annoying ones) and an ex-boss of mine who did enjoy a long lunch but was also prone to putting up his hand in court and volunteering to defend people who couldn’t afford lawyers. Fine for him of course, because he would then delegate the work to me.
Recently I have become concerned that there is a big chunk of me in Singh as well especially when he’s complaining about things like hotel food and Singaporean driving.

Q         It is frequently said ‘write what you know’ so I would have thought that maybe you would have started with a lawyer protagonist, what led you to select a policeman as your protagonist?
A         Curiously, I did begin with a thirty-something female lawyer protagonist when I started writing. However, she was the most annoying creature! One day, I noticed Inspector Singh, who was a bit part character at the time, waiting in the wings for a bigger role. He was so much more fun to write than my original, semi-autobiographical character. The truth is, I’m too boring to be in a book!

Q         You say that you gave up your job in an international law firm in Singapore to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist, all in an effort to make up for her ‘evil’ past as a corporate lawyer! What exactly is your ‘evil past’?
A         It wasn’t me so much (I like to think) as the company I kept. I was a cross border capital markets and mergers and acquisitions lawyer which meant that I was always advising big business and multi-national corporations, men in suits in other words. Most of the transactions were about raising finance. It was an era of greed and rapacious expansion without much thought for the big issues of our time – particularly the environmental impact of the projects.

Q         I understand that you have two children. Do you manage to have a regular writing day?
A         I do my best and it’s easier now that the kids have a regular school routine so they’re out of the house for a few hours. It’s also why I am somewhat grateful for my previous existence as a corporate lawyer because I never see a deadline without making sure I meet it. If there was an Olympic sport in meeting deadlines, I would be a contender. Usually, I just lie to myself, tell myself something is urgent, and of I go.

Q         When embarking on a new book what area of the book challenges you the most? 
A         Each Inspector Singh novel is set in a different country. That moment when I decide on a destination and confront the sheer volume of research that has to be completed is fairly daunting. Luckily I like finding out stuff and it is great to enhance a fairly superficial understanding of a subject with some in depth study. As I often choose issues with legal elements (like setting the Cambodia book around the war crimes tribunal), it allows me to fall back on subject that interests me namely, law and its impact on society.

Q         What is your favourite part of the writing process?
A         When I am exactly half way through a first draft. It may sound strange but in my experience that is the point where the book starts writing itself. It’s as if the characters have a mind of their own by then and they just “act” out the rest of the book while I take notes. I haven’t reached that point with the book I’m writing now and it’s a painful

Q.        When starting a new book do you always have a clear view of how the book will work, and if so do your books always pan out as originally envisioned, or change during the writing process? 
A         I have a few hooks – but nothing more. I tend to start with Singh, a brand new shiny country and a couple of legal and social issues that I would like to write about. And then I just begin, typing with one hand while the other has its fingers crossed that this not very organised way of writing will work one more time.

Q         Are you in anyway influenced by other writers, I mean favourite authors that you have enjoyed in the past?
A         I must be since I’ve always been an avid reader and love so many books, crime and otherwise. However, I think the process is quite subtle. I suspect that the whole experience of a lifetime of reading distils into that particular style a writer calls his or her own (I have quite an old fashioned style I’m told which is probably because I do love my Jane Austen.)

Q         You say that your big breakthrough came when Little, Brown, UK bought the worldwide rights for the first three titles.  How did that come about?
A         I had self-published the first novel – at the time I saw the book as an experiment and was aware that the process of finding a publisher is quite long drawn out and often impossible. The wheels of publishing work even slower than the wheel of justice. That first book sold quite well so I sent it together with the manuscripts for the second and third to a handful of publishers and agents. I had a couple of publishing offers within three months. It goes to show it really is about luck and timing. At the time, so called “exotic” crime was all the rage, Singh was a colourful character and I was able to offer a multi-book series from the beginning rather than stand alone novel – all of which helped, I think.

Q         I know that you write children’s books, as well as crime do you have a preference? And does one come easier than the other?
A         Being a workaholic, I can’t stop writing. And as they say a change is as good as a rest, I switch genres every book and pretend it’s a holiday. I love writing for children – you feel that you’re really making an impact on young lives; that they may walk away from a book with greater self-confidence or heightened environmental awareness or maybe just a smile. However, as a grown up, I also feel compelled to seek out fellow adults for conversation (through the medium of books) once in a while.

Q         What prompted you catching the environmental bug? One major incident, or just a gradual awareness?
A         Children! They ruin one’s complete indifference to a future that’s further than week away. After having children, I began to pay more attention to the climate change debate and panicked as all parents should really. We do a terrible disservice to our children when we indulge their media-driven desire to own every piece of plastic on the planet. Better to just say “no”!

Q         Is there any possibility we will see you in the UK anytime soon?
A         Living in Singapore, Asia and Australia have been more natural places to travel to promote my books. I haven’t found the same opportunities in the UK for whatever reason. It’s a shame as I would love to attend festivals and other book events in that part of the world. I studied in England for many years and am always on the lookout for opportunities to come back and feel young again.

Thank you Shamini for taking the time out for this interview.  I so hope that you will at sometime visit the UK.

Books in the Inspector Singh series are:
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul
Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Curious Indian Cadaver